As I situate myself at a desk in the pricing area, I suddenly hear a woman’s voice mention my name. Before I’ve had the chance to look for my next interviewee on the store floor, she’s already introduced herself and is ready for our conversation. Meet Robin!
Robin is recently retired and a new resident of Sun City. She tells me she first became aware of The Caring Place through her membership of the Women Helping Others (WHO) organization, which connects members to various non-profits in the Williamson County area. Robin, who was looking for ways to give back to the community, decided to participate in a TCP volunteer orientation.
“Honestly, I was open to anything,” was her response when asked to choose a department to volunteer in. But with some nudging from our Volunteer Coordinator, Dennis, Robin settled on pricing and sorting donated items. Her one request, not having to stand for long periods of time, seemed to be well-suited to such a position. Things took a turn on her first day, however. Due to a volunteer shortage at the front register, Robin filled in as a cashier instead of pricing in the warehouse.
That was in November of last year. Now, many months since then, Robin is still working the register. “[I] can’t imagine doing anything else.” She explains that working with customers, who are “extremely appreciative,” is why she loves being a cashier. And, because she’s able to sit and rest during lulls, she hasn’t found her shifts to be tiring. In addition to being at the front register once a week, Robin also volunteers as the Boutique cashier on Saturdays. In her time here, she’s seen some changes at the register, like increased voucher flexibility for neighbors in need and the removal of plexiglass barriers from the pandemic. As Robin explains how such revisions have benefitted customers, I can tell she truly cares about the well-being of the patrons at The Caring Place.
Before retirement, Robin was an HR director. She enjoyed having an established corporate career, with travel opportunities and good pay. However, “None of it compares to how good I feel to get up in the morning and desire to be here. I leave and desire to come back.” For one, Robin laughs about the many more “thank yous” she gets now compared to working in HR. As well as cherishing the interactions with shoppers, Robin finds the other volunteers to be welcoming and kind people to work with. The other volunteers were happy to show her the ins and outs of the register, even during busy periods, when she first arrived. At that time, she met volunteers who had been at TCP for decades and thought, “People don’t stay if it’s not a good place, certainly not volunteers.” Robin tells me her volunteer experiences so far have only reinforced that notion.
Among the many customers she’s met, Robin has one that stands out: a young woman, stocking up on infant clothes. Busy with counting up and bagging onesies and socks, Robin didn’t notice her baby boy, wrapped in a blanket, until she looked up to see him in the woman’s arms. The mother explained to Robin how The Caring Place was the only way she could afford to buy clothes for her 4-day-old baby. At that moment, Robin felt fulfilled that she was able to do something “of such high value” for a young mother in tough circumstances. To her, being part of how The Caring Place provides for our neighbors is what “fills her heart.”
Robin hopes the experiences she shares will lead people in the area to consider volunteering at The Caring Place. “Service and giving to others is so much more fulfilling than a paycheck,” is something Robin says she has realized. At the very least, she encourages people to come shop our thrift stores and support our mission: to provide for the basic human needs of all people in our community in a welcoming, respectful and caring way.